Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Couple Pro-Choice Slogans Analyzed

Be sure to read Scott Klusendorf's short but excellent piece entitled Why Your Friends are 'Pro-Choice" (And What You Can Do About It).  He looks at two of the most used popular phrases that come up in the abortion debate.  The first refers to the slogan: "Don't like abortion? Don't have one."  Klusendorf responds to this sound-bite argument in the following manner:
Notice the bumper sticker completely transforms the nature of the abortion debate with a single word---"like."
When pro-life advocates claim that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being, they aren't saying they dislike abortion. They are saying it's objectively wrong, regardless of how one feels about it. Notice what's going on here. The pro-life advocate makes a moral claim that he believes is objectively true---namely, that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being. The abortion-choice advocate responds by changing that objective truth claim into a subjective one about likes and dislikes, as if the pro-lifer were talking about a mere preference. But this misses the point entirely. As Francis J. Beckwith points out, pro-life advocates don't oppose abortion because they find it distasteful; they oppose it because it violates rational moral principles.
Imagine if I said, "Don't like slavery? Then don't own a slave." Or, "Don't like spousal abuse? Then don't beat your wife!" If I said such things, you would immediately realize I don't grasp why slavery and spousal abuse are wrong. They are not wrong because I personally dislike them. They are wrong because slaves and spouses are intrinsically valuable human beings who have a natural right not to be treated as property. Whether I personally like slavery or spousal abuse is completely beside the point. If I liked spousal abuse, you would rightly say I was sick! You wouldn't resign yourself to, "I guess abuse is right for you but not for me."
The second slogan revolves around the notion of "keep the government out of the abortion business."  Klusendorf brings up two points that make this impossible.
Ironically, the pro-choicer fails to recognize two key facts that completely undermine his appeal for government neutrality. First, the federal government is already deeply involved in abortion. In fact, one branch of the government, the federal courts, has completely co-opted the abortion issue---leaving the executive and legislative branches with no say. As law professor Hadley Arkes stated in his testimony before Congress, the courts have exclusive authority to first invent, then broadly apply, the abortion license---leaving the people with no voice on the matter through their elected officials. The American people may talk about abortion all they want, but they have no real say on the matter. Federal judges speak for them.
Second, government neutrality is impossible on abortion. The law either recognizes the unborn as valuable human beings and thus protects them, or it doesn't and permits killing them. By agreeing that human fetuses are fitting subjects for abortion, the federal courts are taking a public policy position that the unborn don't deserve the same protections owed toddlers or other human beings. This is hardly a neutral position; it's an extremely controversial one with deep metaphysical underpinnings. Thus, when people tell me the federal government should stay out of the abortion decision, I take my cue from Arkes and ask, "Including the federal courts?"
Klusendorf is an excellent teacher in regards to pro-life apologetics and this short article is a great primer on dealing with two ubiquitous slogans that are bantered about incessantly.

For those wanting more training in pro-life apologetics see Klusendorf's presentations HERE.